Growing Potatoes in Tires
Growing potatoes in tires is a really neat and inexpensive way of achieving a decent crop of potatoes in a confined space, as an alternative to growing potatoes in commercially available potato planters or traditionally in rows.
Potatoes are usually divided into main crop or early potatoes. The early varieties need chitting before being planted, while the maincrop potatoes benefit from chitting but don't insist on it.
The First Early potatoes are planted earlier (usually late March) and can be harvested as new potatoes when they are the size of an egg towards the end of June. Second Early potatoes are planted a couple of weeks later and are ready to be lifted in July or August.
Maincrop potatoes are planted in mid to late April or very early May, and the first ones are ready to be lifted in August to be eaten straight away, while most will be lifted in September or October for storage over the winter.
Within the early and maincrop there are also different types of potatoes. Potatoes can have red, yellow or white skin, and the flesh can vary between a pale cream and and yellow. Some potato varieties are particularly good for certain types of cooking, eg the maincrop variety 'Majestic' has been the most popular potato for making chips in the UK, while 'Kerr's Pink' is a good potato for mashing.
One of the benefits of growing potatoes in tires is that you can grow different types of potatoes easily. Simply have several stacks of tires: one for early potatoes, one for a red skinned maincrop and one for a potato variety perfect for making chips!
Remember: GREEN potatoes are poisonous!
Potatoes grow well with beans, especially bush beans, cabbage, marigolds and nasturtiums. They also get on okay with corn and eggplants.
Don't try growing potatoes in tires together with other plants or near cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, courgettes (zucchini) or tomatoes. One of the reasons for this is that all these vegetables are prone to mosaic virus, and keeping them apart helps to prevent the virus from spreading from one vegetable type to the next. Tomatoes can also catch potato blight, so again, keep them apart to try to prevent cross infection.
While this guide shows the method for growing potatoes in tires, it is obviously equally suited to growing potatoes in other containers, from large plant pots, to potato planters.
Before planting potatoes, it is usual to chit them. Chitting means that when you receive your seed potatoes in around February, you place them in a light, dry environment, but out of direct sunlight (a north facing window sill is a good place) and wait for small shoots to grow from the eye of the potato, which should be facing up. When looking at a potato, you will notice that one end will usually have more eyes than the other end, this is called the rose end (see image to the left). Early potatoes need to be chitted before being planted, while maincrop varieties don't absolutely need it but will benefit from being chitted before being planted.
Early potatoes are ready to harvest when the flowers have opened or the buds fallen off; dig a few tubers up and check - they should be about the size of a hen's egg. With maincrop potatoes, wait until the foliage has turned brown, cut off at the stems and wait a few days before lifting.
One of the cons of the traditional method of growing potatoes in long rows, is that you have to ensure you have dug up every single tuber each autumn. Growing potatoes in tires avoids the possibility of missing that one tiny potato which would ruin your carrot patch next year!
Although when growing potatoes in tires it is possible to have a stack four tires high, we would not recommend this when growing potatoes with children. The temptation to climb up the stack is rather too great and they could hurt themselves if the earth-filled tires fell on top of them.
Keep the potatoes well watered during long dry spells or droughts. The tubers being formed are largely water, so lack of water can result in potatoes which look okay, but are rubbery and soft on the inside.
Always grow potatoes from seed potatoes which have been certified as virus-free.
In this Section:
Buying Seed Potatoes:
Seed Potatoes are not availabe all year round, but can be ordered as from around October for delivery early in the new year.
Always buy from reputable companies, and check that the seed potatoes are certified virus free, and if possible are resistant against blight (remember the potato famine in Ireland?).
Don't leave it until the last minute to try to rush out and buy seed potatoes because the chances are they will all be sold out - believe me, it happened to us last year!
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